The Fairtrade Challenge – and my first attempt at blogging!

I’ve just realised that it’s the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight and this means quite a lot to me. Not only am I a fan of Fairtrade and will always choose this option over other products, but it also marks the start of my blogging career. I’ve barely given it a second thought since I left university but my very first blog was documenting a Fairtrade-only food challenge back in 2007!

The blog was a written for the local newspaper in order to share the progress of a fortnight-long challenge of eating only ethically produced foods to raise awareness and to see whether it would be possible to live solely on Fairtrade and local produce. The blog is still online and we repeated the project in 2008 and documented this again on the same blog.

We were both students at the time and my husband was an executive officer in the Students’ Union so we were happily roped into the SU’s Fairtrade activities and took loads of photos with promotional bananas while wearing our university jackets! We ended up in all the newspapers and I wrote articles for the Pluto the Students’ Union newspaper too – this early attempt at a writing career confirmed that this was what I wanted to do and I was so pleased that people would be reading MY work!

fairtrade fortnight 2007 2008 student union challenge blog

Old grainy photos and a very young me – but you get the idea!

It was pretty tough trying to live on only Fairtrade or local food back in 2007 and things have improved a lot since then – the range has improved and almost all shops stock Fairtrade these days. Back then we could shop in the Co-op or Sainsburys and that was about it! Luckily we lived near Garstang at the time which was the world’s first Fairtrade town (and the university gained Fairtrade status while we were studying there) so we had it easier than most – but it was still tough to find anything more than rice, chocolate and wine during the early years. This was precisely why we decided to include local produce in our project – otherwise we would have starved! Lucky we could buy direct from a dairy farm nearby and had a butchers which reared the meat themselves so this followed the rules and meant that we didn’t go hungry!

By 2008, just year on from the first Fairtrade Challenge, the product range had increased and we were enjoying beer, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and pasta – even Traidcraft loo roll! We needed much less in the way of local produce – but is this really a good thing? Surely it’s better to support our local farmers and source our food locally with considerably less food miles? Obviously there’s no way that I can do that with coffee, bananas and chocolate so I’d rather buy these Fairtrade than not. And nowadays there’s no excuse for not buying Fairtrade store cupboard essentials as supermarkets sell like-for-like products at similar prices. It may be a little more expensive for some products but I also found it to be cheaper for some too. Over a weekly shop during the 2007 challenge the difference was about 37p more for Fairtrade – I wonder what the difference is today?

I’m pleased that Fairtrade Fortnight has prompted me to recall the origins of my blogging career and although the original blog isn’t the most exciting or well-designed, at least I was bitten by the blogging bug early and it inspired me to work hard on my writing for the future – thank goodness, because I don’t know what else I’d be doing now if it wasn’t for the Fairtrade Challenge!

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Cassie is a freelance writer with a Masters degree in Lifestyle Promotion Studies and is trained in Personal Money Management. She loves to ‘get the look for less’ so regularly shares thrifty-living advice, DIY interior design ideas and low-cost recipes on her blog.

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